|Tuesday, 23 January 2018|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 12-02-24
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Friday, 24 February 2012 Issue No: 4006
 Parliament passes bill for PSI bond swapsGreece's Parliament on Thursday passed the finance ministry's bill for the PSI bond swap programme to reduce Greece's debt, with the support of the two parties in the coalition government, PASOK and main opposition New Democracy, and the head of the Democratic Alliance party Dora Bakoyannis.
The bill was opposed by the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA), the Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party, the independent MPs of the Democratic Left and criticised by independent MP Panagiotis Kourouplis.
No party asked for a roll-call vote on the draft bill, which was tabled in Parliament as urgent and debated using express procedures.
 FinMin on PSI agreement, rebukes criticsGreek Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos on Thursday hit back at his critics in Parliament, saying the only conclusion of a vote rejecting a new bailout package would lead to either an orderly default within the euro, with a strong support by European partners, or a disorderly default, which would bring the country "to the living standards of Albania and Moldova".
He was responding to criticism by leftist political parties in Parliament, during a debate over a PSI programme agreed by a Eurogroup meeting early in the week.
"The real dilemma is sacrifices with a prospect, or no prospect at all. Reducing assets or zero assets. Unemployment or general unemployment," Venizelos said.
The minister reassured Parliament that the government will find a way to fully cover citizens who have invested in state bonds, while he noted that a forecast to cut the country's public debt to 120 pct of GDP by 2020 has been drawn on very strict criteria. Commenting on a new downgrade of Greece's credit rating, Venizelos said it will not affect the daily lives of Greek citizens.
 DebateParliament on Thursday morning began the debate on a PSI bonds swap deal that will reduce Greece's debt by some 100 billion euros, which will be voted on the same evening.
The bill on "regulations for modification of titles, issues or guarantees by the Greek state in agreement with the Bond-holders", also known as the PSI Bill, was introduced in the plenary of the 300-member unicameral parliament under "urgent" procedures, which provide for a discussion of up to 10 hours before the bill is voted on.
The two Left groupings in parliament -- the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) and the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA parliamentary alliance) -- via MPs Thanassis Pafilis (KKE) and Dimitris Papadimoulis (SYRIZA) strongly objected to the procedure, while Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) MP Alekos Chryssanthakopoulos charged that the procedure being followed was muzzling the deputies.
Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos replied that he could not understand their persistence in objecting the procedure of "urgent", charging that those who do not accept the procedure "are not aware of or do not realise at what point the country is in". He also called on the dissenters to "state openly that they do not want the country to shed 130 billion euros and 50 points of its debt".
Pafilis told the minister to "stop fooling and coercing the people'
'You are lying that they will be relieved by 130 billion euros. What will the working people gain? The banks and the monopolies will gain," Pafilis said.
Papadimoulis, in turn, said that "we have a government that, hand-in-hand with the troika, has turned parliament into a decision-poster", while Chryssanthakopoulos charged that "the pressure you are exerting creates anomaly. The (plenary) hall is not filling up because the MPs are not being given the floor".
PASOK deputy Christos Protopapas, responding, said that "completing the ratification of the bill today (Thursday) is a matter of national duty, everything else is populism".
 Greece determined to take measures needed for loan agreement, gov't spokesman saysGreece is prepared and determined to take all the required measures in order for the agreement on the bailout loans to go ahead, government spokesman Pantelis Kapsis stressed during a press briefing on Thursday.
In the week leading up to March 1, when the Eurogroup will evaluate Greece's success in implementing the "prerequisite actions" needed in order for the loans to be given, the government will have actively demonstrated its determination to make all the changes to which it had committed so that the new loan agreement might be approved, he added.
This would be reflected by Greece's EU partners in the votes of their national Parliaments to approve the deal, beginning on February 27 in Germany and Holland.
"We are taking a great decisive step, for the first time creating conditions of stability and security that will allow us to lay the foundations to achieve our primary target, which is the reorganisation of the economy and creation of new jobs," Kapsis said.
Asked to clarify his statements earlier on Thursday concerning the possibility of further measures being imposed, Kapsis denied that there were any current plans for new measures and said his statement had referred to a provision in the new Memorandum that measures for 2013 and 2014 should be discussed in June.
Concerning the timing of the elections, he said there was nothing new concerning the government's position on this issue and regarding the identity of the MP that had transferred one million euro to a bank abroad, Kapsis said the government would do its utmost to ensure transparency.
Finally, asked to comment on a planned meeting between interim Prime Minister Lucas Papademos and Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski of neighbouring Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), the spokesman underlined that Greece will insist on continuing the process begun in the framework of the United Nations.
 Gov't spokesman: Measures for 2013-2014 will be discussed in JuneThe measures that will be required for 2013 and 2014 will be discussed in June, government spokesman Pantelis Kapsis said Thursday morning, speaking on state NET television station.
He said that in order for the agreement reached with the Eurogroup for the reduction of the Greek debt to be fulfilled "we must make immense changes".
The wager for the future governments is that all the changes are made so as to render the Greek economy productive, Kapsis added.
Asked when general elections will be called, he reiterated that elections will take place as soon as the new loan agreement is completed.
 Rehn: Commission will be referee on structural changes, coach in technical assistanceThe European Commission will be the referee with respect to implementation of the structural changes and the coach with respect to the technical assistance to the state authorities, European Commissioner for economic and monetary affairs Olli Rehn said in Brussels on Thursday, encapsulating the dual role of the Commission experts (Task Force) who are in and are cooperation with the national authorities in Greece.
Rehn said that there are currently 16 Commission employees in Greece, belonging to the so-called Task Force headed by Horst Reichenbach, adding that approximately six more people will join this "team".
In addition to the Commission experts, there are also experts from eurozone member states in Athens who are advising the Greek authorities and providing technical assistance in areas such as tax collection and combating tax evasion, among others.
Further, there are also Commission staff members in Athens overseeing the implementation of the programme and providing assistance so as to make the state machine more efficient and improve the absorption of EU funds.
Both the technical assistance and the supervisory function need to be further boosted, Rehn added.
 Rehn: Uncertainty has endedThe uncertainty over the second adjustment programme for Greece has eclipsed, European economic and monetary affairs commissioner Olli Rehn said in Brussels on Thursday.
Presenting interim economic forecasts for the 27-member EU, Rehn also said that the coming weeks and months are critical for the implementation of the Greek programme.
 IMF says bailout package offers Greece space, timeWASHINGTON (AMNA)
Gerry Rice, the IMF's director of external relations, on Thursday noted that the group has received assurances from political parties in Greece that the recently ratified Memorandum would be honored after an election in Greece, probably in April.
"It's a strong package but it's contingent on implementation and there are risks," Rice told reporters at a press conference in Washington D.C. "It's a difficult package of measures. We are (aware) of the hardship being faced by the Greek people ... We don't have a specific number on that IMF financing, that is something that will be discussed with our board," he said.
 House Committee ratifies bill on pensioning arrangementsParliament's Economic and Social Affairs Committee on Thursday approved with a majority vote a finance ministry bill that includes measures that will cut pensions and the basic wage, submitted by the labour and social insurance ministries.
The vote on the draft bill by the House's plenum will take place next Tuesday.
The measures in the bill will include a 12 percent cut to main pensions above 1,300 euro a month, the 7 percent reduction of NAT seamens' fund pensions and the 10-35 percent cuts to supplementary pensions decided last week to plug a gap in the budget. It will also include legislation reducing the minimum wage for those now entering the workforce by 22 percent, to 586 euro gross per month from 751 euros gross per month, while for those under 25 the reduction will be 32 percent to 527 euro per month.
Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos explained that the implementing law is only a "legislative translation" of the measures already ratified by the plenum and announced in advance the tabling of two amendments for the fiscal system and the granting of authorisation to the prime minister to sign a statement on the authenticity of statistical data.
Alternate Finance Minister Pantelis Economou stressed that this draft law is the price for everything positive secured for the Greek people and the country.
 Amendments attached to pension bill will allow PM to 'sign off' on Greece's statisticsFinance Minister Evangelos Venizelos on Thursday said that he will attach two amendments as riders to the draft bill on pensions tabled in Parliament, one dealing with fiscal matters and the second giving the prime minister the power to 'sign off' on the validity of statistical figures.
Venizelos made the announcement while addressing a meeting of Parliament's Economic Affairs Committee during the reading of the bill on reducing pensions and wages.
He said the first amendment concerning the measure included in the programme voted on for the recapitalisation of the banks and bank reform. Venizelos said that the measure was being intensely debated with the European Central Bank so it was not ready at the time the draft bill was tabled and would be tabled as an amendment.
The second will authorise the prime minister to sign a statement regarding the validity of statistical data, which will be signed by all Eurozone member-states.
Venizelos said that Greece had to give this assurance before the first tranche of the new programme was disbursed because, in the past, there had been grounds to doubt the validity of the statistics.
 Closely watched draft enabling law approved in first readingA draft enabling law that includes measures to liberalise the labour sector as well as pension cuts was approved in its first reading before a Parliamentary committee on Thursday. The second reading is scheduled for Tuesday and on Wednesday it will be brought to the Parliament's plenary session for approval.
The draft law was supported by PASOK and New Democracy (ND) deputies, although several voiced certain reservations. MPs representing the Communist Party (KKE), Popular Orthodox Rally (LA.O.S), and the Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) stated their opposition.
ND demanded that articles that do not concern obligations stemming from the Memorandum be withdrawn, while the rest of the opposition parties expressed strong disagreement with a provision concerning generic drugs and their introduction into the Greek market.
 President meets EIB president Werner HoyerPresident of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on Thursday received the president of the European Investment Bank (EIB) Werner Hoyer, thanking him for his significant efforts to aid Greece's development.
Hoyer, accompanied by EIB vice-president Plutarchos Sakellaris, noted that the EIB's goal was to be part of the solution to the major problems facing Greece, stressing that in addition to austerity there was a need for jobs, growth and innovation.
"In this spirit, Mr. Sakellaris and myself are here in order to present some ideas on what can be done to those interested to hear them," he added.
 Papoulias receives visiting former French minister LangPresident Karolos Papoulias on Thursday received France's former minister of culture and education Jack Lang.
During a one-hour meeting at the presidential mansion in Athens, Lang stressed that the Greek people and their leaders will fight to avoid putting the country under supervision, expressing certainty that they will succeed.
Responding to a question by Papoulias on the situation in Europe, Lang replied "both good and bad".
The two also referred to a common friend, the late Greek actress and politician Melina Mercouri.
 PASOK leader chairs meeting of party cadresPASOK leader George Papandreou met with party cadres on Thursday, with whom he discussed issues pertaining to the party.
Reports stated that the party is heading towards the election of its new leader, according to decisions that have already been taken. In all cases, the election of PASOK's new leader will take place on March 18 by the party's grass roots.
 ND leader Samaras addresses Hellenic French Chamber of CommerceNew Democracy (ND) party leader Antonis Samaras, addressing Thursday evening the Hellenic French Chamber of Commerce, referred to the significance of Tuesday's agreement on the settling of the Greek debt and stressed that Greece avoided default and "locked" its stay in the euro.
He said that Greece found itself lately very close to default and added that there were some voices in Europe that proposed its abandonment, in essence its urging to abandon the euro. He added, however, that the problem has not been solved definitely and the dangers have not been neutralised fully.
"We gained valuable time, however," he said and then referred to the "negative stereotypes that prevailed in Europe for Greece and for which Greek politicians have a great responsibility who were the first to christen our country 'the champion of corruption'."
Samaras further noted that over the past two years Greek citizens have seen their living standards decreasing by 34 percent in 2.5 years. Half of this from a reduction in their nominal incomes. And the rest from the increase in taxes and inflation.
 KKE on Eurozone summit decisionsThe Communist Party of Greece (KKE) opined on Thursday that the new agreement for Greece will also prove insufficient and inapplicable, in an announcement regarding the Eurogroup's decisions.
The KKE Political Bureau expresses the certainty that the Greek debt will not become sustainable with the recent "agreement on a structured bankruptcy".
The main issue, however, according to KKE, is that it does not avert the violent and unstructured bankruptcy against the people, which will be linked with a new phase of inability to service the foreign state debt. Greece's continued presence in the eurozone does not depend on the Greek people's heavy sacrifices. "It has to do with the deepening of the asymmetry in the eurozone, the threat of a new crisis arising in the EU and the prospect of losing part of its share of the international capitalistic market and aggravation of the competition with other imperialistic centers."
 Eurodeputies of the Left visiting Greece to express their solidarityThe head of the delegation of the European United Left/Nordic Green Left group of the European Parliament and director of the French newspaper L' Umanite Patrick Le Hyaric, expressed his solidarity for the Greek people at a press conference held in the Greek Parliament on Thursday evening, stressing that "full guardianship is the greatest threat for the Greek people and all the European peoples."
"What is taking place in Greece is also symbolic: democracy was born here and it being placed under a threat here," he added.
Nine Eurodeputies from Portugal, France, Germany, Ireland, Cyprus and Greece, including SYRIZA Eurodeputy Nikos Hountis, are meeting in Athens since Wednesday to express their solidarity and see closely the situation that the Greeks are experiencing, through meetings witrh representatives of social movements, employees trade unions, organisations of the society of citizens and political parties that are opposed to the austerity measures.
Le Hyaric stressed the importance of freedom and democracy, "all this that is taking place is undemocratic" and underlined the need for resorting to elections "so that the Greek people will be in a position to choose."
 FM spokesman: No dispute of status of any island or isletThere is no doubt or dispute of the status of any island or islet in the Aegean, Greek foreign ministry spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras told a press briefing on Thursday.
He was responding to a question according to which Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu, in statements, referred to the Greek islands of Farmakonissi and Agathonissi as "grey zones".
 Greece discussing oil procurement with LibyaGreece is discussing with Libya the procurement of oil, given the increase in Libyan production and in view of the gradual implementation of the embargo of oil imports from Iran decided by the EU, Greek foreign ministry spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras told a press briefing on Thursday.
"The Greek side is discussing with Libya the issue of procurement of oil, in view of the increase in Libyan production and in view of the gradual implementation of the embargo on oil imports from Iran decided by Greece together with the other countries of the EU," Delavekouras said, replying to questions on a possible impact of the embargo on Greece's energy security.
All countries have the right to develop nuclear energy, "but with Iran there is an issue of confidence", he said, and called for a diplomatic solution in cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), stressing that Athens does not support military alternatives nor does it comment on hypothetical issues.
 FM spokesman: Situation in Syria 'unacceptable'Greece on Thursday described as "unacceptable" the situation in Syria, reaffirming at the same time that it places great importance on its relations with the Arab countries.
"Greece places great importance on its relations with the Arab countries," foreign ministry spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras said.
He also described as "unacceptable" the situation in Syria, the continued bloodshed and the killing of two journalists.
Delavekouras said that deputy minister Dimitris Dollis would attend an international conference of the "Friends of Syria" in Tunis, after which he will go to Israel for talks with the foreign minister, while he will also be received by the Patriarch of Jerusalem.
Asked on Greece's stance in the event of a military intervention in Syria or Iran, Delavekouras reiterated that Greece is opposed to military solutions, but declined further comment.
 Greek, Egyptian experts to discuss EEZGreek and Egyptian experts will meet to discuss Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) related matters, Greek foreign ministry spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras announced on Thursday.
"Greece's policy is the delineation of all the seazones," Delavekouras told a press briefing, responding to a question on the delimitation of the Egyptian and the Greek EEZ.
He said that a meeting, at experts' level, will be held with the Egyptian side, "with which Athens maintains very good relations of trust", but did not specify when.
 Health Minister Loverdos on electionsHealth Minister Andreas Loverdos said he was in favour of the calling of elections and the formation, immediately afterwards, of a "political government" that will be supported by the first and second party and which "will send the message that the country will not have instability".
Speaking to the Real Fm radio station, Loverdos added that "just as we succeeded, despite all the difficulties of over a century, to cooperate and converge, we shall try and succeed the same thing after the elections as well", assessing that PASOK and New Democracy (ND) will present better election percentages than those appearing in opinion polls of this period.
 ND will not take part in fact-finding commission on 2009 deficitNew Democracy (ND) will not participate in a parliamentary fact-finding commission on the 2009 deficit, parliamentary group secretary Costas Tassoulas said on Thursday.
He also said that Greece needs to stand on its own feet and that this mission must be shouldered by a new parliament with a fresh mandate from the people.
"ND is playing a leading role in this mission, together with the people, in order to win the most critical battle, that of Greece's recovery," Tassoulas said.
He also criticised what he called the "incorrigible and unrepentant PASOK of Mr. (party leader and former prime minister George) Papandreou and (finance minister Evangelos) Venizelos" which, at this time and in this parliament "is setting up, together with LAOS, a parody fact-finding commission in order to absolve itself and seek an extension of the present parliament's tenure".
"None of that has anything to do with the needs of the country, and thus ND will not take any part in it," Tassoulas added.
 Dem. Alliance leader tables bill for reducing MPs in ParliamentDemocratic Alliance leader Dora Bakoyannis and the three MPs supporting her party on Thursday tabled a draft bill to reduce the number of MPs in the Greek Parliament to 200, the minimum number allowed by the Constitution.
In the covering report, the party notes that reducing the number of MPs in Parliament is imperative as a way of saving money in running the country's political system, so as to avoid the necessity of yet more reductions in pensions and welfare benefits for the poor.
According to Greece's Constitution, the number of MPs in Parliament cannot be less than 200 and not more than 300, while the precise number is determined by law.
 Former minister under investigation for hiding assets denied lower bail, freedom to travelFormer Greek minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos, currently under investigation on charges of submitting an inaccurate statement of his means and assets, was on Thursday denied a lower bail and the lifting of restrictions on his leaving the country by the appellate court justice handling his case.
Justice Theodoros Kanellopoulos ordered the former minister to pay the sum of 150,000 euro by next Tuesday and forbid him to leave the country, while also freezing a property near the Athens Acropolis whose acquisition by Tsohatzopoulos is also under scrutiny.
A few days ago, the former minister submitted a lengthy document, in which he replies to charges of submitting an inaccurate statement of his wealth in the year 2009.
 Joint EU-Turkey Parliamentary Committee vice president visits professor ErsanliBRUSSELS (AMNA/M. Spinthourakis)
EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee vice president, PASOK Eurodeputy, Marilena Koppa visited professor Busra Ersanli who is in custody in light of her trial in Istanbul.
Ersanli is a professor in Political Sciences and International Relations at the University of Marmara, in Istanbul. She is also a member of the Party of Peace and Democracy (BDP) and participates in the preparation of the new Turkish constitution. She was placed under supervision on October 28 2011 in the framework of the operation against KCK (Union of Kurdish Communities).
She has spent more than 100 days in custody waiting for her trial without her having knowledge of the evidence and precise charges attributed to her.
 Greek economy to shrink by 4.4 % in 2012, Commission reportThe Greek economy is projected to shrink by 4.4 pct this year and to enter an era of deflation, the European Commission said on Thursday.
In its interim report on the EU's economic outlook, the Commission said an economic recession in the country would be deeper from initial forecasts made in autumn 2011 (-2.8 pct) and added that the economy would also face the risks of a very low consumer and business confidence.
The Commission forecasts a decline in both external and domestic demand, as a result of a restructuring in the labor market and a cut in private sector wages. At the same time, exports will be less dynamic compared with the previous three years despite lower labor cost in Greece, while imports were also expected to decline further.
The EU's executive said it expected Greece to suffer a deflation this year (-0.5 pct), as a result of an expected decline in available incomes and consumption. The Commission stressed that the labor market was entering a painful adjustment period and that unemployment would continue rising in 2012. Minimum wage will fall by 22 pct and labor costs will fall by 15 pct on average in the next three years. The Commission said that a government's decision to cut minimum wages was expected to raise hurdles in domestic demand and have a negative impact on employment in the short-term. In the medium-term, however, the Commission expects that these structural reforms will create favourable conditions for employment.
The Commission forecasts that the Eurozone economy will shrink by 0.3 pct in 2012, while the EU's economy will remain stagnant this year.
 Gov't: EIB to play major role in country's developmentThe European Investment Bank (EIB) will play a central role in the country's development over the next few years, Environment, Energy and Climate Change Minister George Papaconstantinou stated on Thursday within the framework of his meeting with the institution's new president Werner Hoyer.
Papaconstantinou stated that the EIB can be involved in various projects including the development of the former Helliniko airport site in southern coastal Athens; the Helios photovoltaic project for the production and export of electricity and the privatizations of Hellenic Public Gas Corp. S.A. (DEPA), Hellenic Gas Transmission System Operator (DESFA) and Hellenic Petroleum S.A. (ELPE). Also, the EIB can be involved in the introduction of a strategic investor in the energy grid sector; the land registry project and in the public and private sector partnerships in waste management.
He referred to the already close cooperation with the EIB, stressing that it finances very important programmes in Greece in the sector of energy, the Renewable Energy Sources (RES) in particular. He added that a number of major initiatives have been launched in many of which the EIB will play a crucial role.
Addressing the EIB investment forum, Papaconstantinou underlined that the reduction of the primary deficit by 8 percentage points of GDP achieved in two years by Greece is an unmatched performance adding, however, that fiscal adjustment is a necessary precondition but cannot lead to sustainable economic growth by itself.
He underlined that the recent Brussels decision can change the country's course in the next decades, can lay the foundations for the reduction of public debt and put in motion an economic programme combined with necessary structural reforms to offer a breath of fresh air in the Greek economy.
 Black Sea Bank to approve 13-16 investment plans in GreeceBlack Sea Commerce and Development Bank is expected to approve and sign around 13-16 investment plans in Greece by 2014, as part of a four-year strategic and business plan, Petros Kontos, director of International Financial Organizations of the Development ministry said on Thursday, addressing a Black Sea Region Business Forum in Thessaloniki.
The bank, in a report, said it expected to approve each year around four new activities in Greece, totaling 47.3 million euros annually, raising the value of investment activities in the country to 212 million euros in the four-year period. Black Sea Bank financed a total of 12 projects in Greece in the period 1999-2011.
A survey, presented by Northern Greece Exporters Union (SEBE) and the Federation of Hellenic Enterprises (SEB), showed that Greece is at the bottom in enterprises' revenue as a percentage of exporting activity in the European Union. "Only 9.0 pct of Greek enterprises record revenues from export activity, with Greek enterprises' exports accounting for 2.0 pct of total revenues, down from an average rate of 4.6 pct in the EU," Anastasios Alexandridis, executive vice-president of SEBE told the forum. He stressed that Greece has not yet taken full advantage of exporting opportunities offered by the creation of a single market and noted there were hurdles towards more export activity: lack of skilled staff, lack of funding sources and lack of information and knowledge of international markets.
Dimitris Lakasas, president of SEBE, said Greece needed to negotiate a new development plan, a new "Marshall Plan", combined with a new lending agreement.
Ioannis Patsiavos, an official from SEB, said the Black Sea region, with a population of 350 million, offered a great potential for Greek enterprises.
A total of 33 enterprises from 12 Black Sea region countries participated in the forum, along with 55 Greek enterprises, with 250 business meetings held. Alumil Group said it planned to expand activities in Central African countries, such as Congo and Cameroon. Kleemann Hellas said it has raised its market share in Turkey through its subsidiary Kleemann Asansor, founded in 2011, to 12 pct ranking among the biggest players in the sector.
 FM: Green economy, RES, vehicle for developmental effort in GreeceThe importance of a green economy and renewable energy sources (RES) in tackling climate change but also in promoting development in Greece was underlined by foreign minister Stavros Dimas on Thursday as he addressed a European Investment Bank (EIB) conference in Athens on "Tackling climate change: Making Green Growth a Reality".
Dimas, speaking on the theme "The Challenges of climate change in South-East Europe and market prospects, said that the financing of small and medium enterprises and promotion of green growth and RES can serve as a fundamental vehicle in the developmental effort in Greece, adding that climate change has immense economic and social dimensions.
He said that it is not limited by geographical boundaries, and therefore requires global action to tackle it, and stressed the significance of regional cooperation for better results.
The European Union realised the threat early on and took action immediately to deal with the phenomenon, Dimas said, but added that in Southeast Europe there was still a long way to go to reverse the present state of affairs, reminding that dependence on oil and coal for electricity production was still very large in the SE Europe countries, while minor progress has been made in the development of RES.
Citing UN data, he said that Greece is among the 18 regions of the planet most vulnerable to climate change, adding that the development of the RES market in the country is vital, despite the adverse economic situation.
The national target is to multiply RES-powered energy production in Greece, and for that purpose more than 20 billion euros will be invested by 2020, while 210,000 jobs are also expected to be created that will be related to green growth and the green economy.
As for what he called the "ambitious" Helios programme that envisages the installation 50,000 acres of photovoltaic panels throughout Greece, Dimas noted that revenues from the project were anticipated at 80 billion euros, of which 20 billion could be channeled to ameliorate the country's debt.
In that context, he said that the recent Eurogroup decision distanced Greece from default and reaffirmed the country's place in Europe, adding that emphasis must now be placed on growth and actions that will boost the market and create new jobs.
Consequently, the wager of green growth for Greece was a dual one: tackling climate change on the one hand, and tackling the economic crisis on the other so that Greece will return to a developmental orbit, Dimas noted.
"In this effort, we look to the assistance and cooperation of the European Investment Bank because we believe that, together, we can succeed," he said.
Focusing on the EIB's role, Dimas said that at a time when Greece is called on to make "leaps" both in its manner of operation and its developmental model, the financing of small and medium size enterprises could serve as the vehicle for the country's developmental effort.
He also thanked EIB president Werner Hoyer for his contribution to this effort.
Dimas will have a meeting with Hoyer later in the evening at the foreign ministry.
 Employers' federation calls for abolition of temp employment counter-incentivesThe Federation of Hellenic Enterprises (SEV) on Thursday cited what it called counter-incentives to the implementation of the temporary employment option -- Article 122 -- included in an enabling law concerning labour sector liberalisation.
According to SEV, "the state, instead of encouraging the creation of new job positions in every possible way, forces employers to apologise for the efforts they make to an ineffective bureaucracy that does not operate in a transparent manner."
SEV called for the abolition of the clause in question according to which, the duration of temporary employment cannot exceed 36 months and should meet "extraordinary, temporary or seasonal needs".
 Local trade unions to participate in pan-European protest on Wed.The General Confederation of Employees of Greece (GSEE), which represents the private sector and the public-sector union federation ADEDY have called a three-hour work stoppage from at noon to 3 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 29, part of a continent-wide anti-austerity protest called by the trade unions in Europe.
A protest demonstration will take place at 1:30 p.m. outside the European Commission representation office in Athens, while yet another protest rally will be held later in downtown Syntagma Square. A concert will also take place, organized jointly by various professional associations etc.
 Three-hour general strike called by trade unions next WednesdayGreece's two largest umbrella trade union organisations, the General Confederation of Employees of Greece (GSEE) representing the private sector and the civil servants' union federation ADEDY, have announced a three-hour nationwide general strike next Wednesday, between the hours of noon and 3:00 p.m.
On the same day, trade unionists will organise a demonstration outside the offices of the EU represenatation in Athens at 1:30 p.m.
There will follow a protest rally and concert at Syntagma Square opposite Parliament at 6:00 p.m. on the same day, organised by GSEE, ADEDY, the Technical Chamber, the Athens Bar Association and the Athens Medical Association.
 German exports to Greece shrink 13 percentBERLIN (AMNA - F. Karaviti)
German exports to Greece fell 13 percent in 2011, a reduction corresponding to 5.1 billion euro, according to the deputy CEO of the German Chamber of Industry and Commerce Volker Treier.
Talking to the German newspaper "Handelsblatt", Treier said that the reduction reflected a drop in demand for vehicles and machinery due to the painful "adjustment process in Greece".
Quoting figures from the German statistics agency, the paper noted that German exports to Greece had returned to the same levels as in 2002.
 Bussiness Briefs-- The Hellenic Telecommunications Organization (OTE) on Thursday said its financial figures fell into the red in 2011, hit by a deep recession in the country.
-- Hellenic Petroleum group on Thursday said its net profits totaled 114 million euros in 2011, down from 180 million euros in the previous year, while it stressed that the group reported losses totaling 48 million euros in the fourth quarter of 2011.
-- Greece's animal feed market volume is showing small volatility in the past few years, after rising by an average growth rate of 3.0 pct in the 2002-2008 period.
 Greek stocks continue moving lowerGreek stocks continued moving lower for the third consecutive session in the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday. The composite index of the market fell 0.72 pct to end at 746.53 points, after rising as much as 767.49 points during the session. Turnover remained a low 65.086 million euros. The Big Cap index fell 0.96 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 0.19 pct lower and the Small Cap index eased 0.30 pct. The Chemicals (6.72 pct) and Commerce (2.42 pct) sectors scored gains, while the Food (3.07 pct), Telecoms (2.75 pct) and Utilities (2.56 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day.
Hellenic Postbank (9.64 pct), Viohalco (4.11 pct), Jumbo (2.71 pct) and Motor Oil (2.36 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while Marfin Popular Bank (10.37 pct), Cyprus Bank (3.68 pct), Coca Cola 3E (3.12 pct) and PPC (3.01 pct) were top losers.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 87 to 66 with another 26 issues unchanged. Hatzioannou (20.69 pct), Perseus (20 pct), HOL (19.80 pct) were top gainers, while Kordellou Bros (23.9 pct), Unibios (23.08 pct) and PC Systems (20 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: +0.20%
Personal & Household: +2.07%
Raw Materials: -0.18%
Travel & Leisure: +1.01%
Food & Beverages: -3.07%
Financial Services: -1.13%
The stocks with the highest turnover were Alpha Bank, National Bank and Eurobank.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 1.36
Public Power Corp (PPC): 3.55
HBC Coca Cola: 13.95
Hellenic Petroleum: 5.69
National Bank of Greece: 2.31
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 1.04
Bank of Piraeus: 0.50
 Greek bond market closing reportYield spreads in regional European bonds widened further on Thursday on worries over economic growth in Europe, combined with market doubts over the ability of Greece to fully implement reforms envisaged in a new bailout package.
In the domestic interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month rate was 1.642 pct, the six-month rate 1.309 pct, the three-month rate 1.014 pct and the one-month rate 0.592 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe March contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at a premium of 0.84 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with turnover remaining a low 25.381 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 8,610 contracts worth 13.221 million euros, with 28,455 open positions in the market. Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 52,231 contracts worth 12.160 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Alpha Bank's contracts (22,247), followed by Cyprus Bank (2,506), MIG (254), OTE (889), PPC (1,088), OPAP (483), Piraeus Bank (3,899), National Bak (16,073), Marfin Popular Bank (711), Hellenic Postbank (1,788), Ellaktor (228) and Intralot (337).
 Foreign Exchange rates - FridayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.35
Pound sterling 0.858
Danish kroner 7.549
Swedish kroner 8.949
Japanese yen 108.32
Swiss franc 1.223
Norwegian kroner 7.583
Canadian dollar 1.345
Australian dollar 1.261
 Kurd remanded in custody over major weapons cache discoveryA 53-year-old Turkish national of Kurdish origin was remanded in custody after a decision by a prosecutor and an examining judge in Thessaloniki investigating a case involving a cache of heavy weaponry, which was discovered in a basement apartment in Thessaloniki last October following a grenade blast.
Another Kurd, 32, was killed in the explosion and a few hours later, the shadowy organisation DHKP-C, in a proclamation, said the victim was its member and a "participant in operations on the Black Sea".
The 53-year-old suspect was located and arrested on Tuesday afternoon in Thessaloniki by virtue of an outstanding warrant against him, issued after his fingerprints were found in the apartment. He is believed to have been connected with armed Kurdish organizations.
He was charged with felony counts of construction, supply and possession of explosive materials for the purpose of putting human life at risk, and for procurement and possession of war material for the purpose of illegally supplying an organised group.
The suspect had submitted an application for political asylum in March 2010 in Athens, and had been living in Thessaloniki since April that same year.
A search of the debris of the Triandria-district apartment had turned up heavy weaponry and explosives. The weapons, which was hidden in a secret compartment in the apartment's kitchen, included an eastern bloc anti-tank weapon armed with a 64mm M80 shell, a "Kalashnikov" assault rifle with four rounds, a Scorpion submachine gun, an AK machine gun, an older model machine gun, ammunition of various diameters, 14 grenade detonators, six hand grenades, two anti-personnel mines and five kilos of explosive material.
 Cooperation between national book centres of Greece, FranceThe national book centres of Greece and France signed a protocol of cooperation on Thursday to establish a joint programme designed to support writers, translators and publishers in both countries.
The two-year agreement (July 2011-June 2013) provides that France's Centre National du Livre (CNL) will fund, to the tune of 150,000 euros, translators and publishers, who will meet conditions for participation in the programme.
The protocol, recently signed by CNL and the National Book Centre of Greece (EKEBI), also provides for meetings of publishers in Paris and Athens.
 Health sector workers demonstrate, march to ParliamentStriking doctors and state hospital staff demonstrated outside the Greek health ministry early on Thursday afternoon and then marched to Parliament, causing traffic jams in the city centre.
State hospital workers are on a 24-hour strike in protest at a 17 percent reduction in their pay for emergency duty shifts and cost-cutting measures that they claim are disruptive for the working of hospitals and patients' care.
Outside Parliament, the protestors also shouted slogans against the economic policy being followed by the government and then returned to the health ministry, which has been occupied by workers in mental health care for the past 15 days.
 Cloudy on FridayCloudy weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Friday, with wind velocity reaching 3-7 beaufort. Temperatures will range between -1C and 17C. Fair in Athens, with northerly 3-5 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 4C to 16. Slightly cloudy in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 3C to 14C.
 The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceThe cutbacks in salaries in accordance with the Memorandum regulations, small enterprises at great risk of shutting down and the small investors' (Greek bond holders) uncertainty that they will also suffer losses from the haircut of the Greek debt, mostly dominated the headlines on Thursday in Athens' newspapers.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "End to collective labour agreements!".
AVGHI: "180,000 real bankruptcies of businesses".
DIMOKRATIA: "Free school meals a mockery".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "March the month of massacre for salaries in private sector".
ESTIA: "Radical changes in taxation".
ETHNOS: "Retroactive bleeding for 50,000 civil servants".
IMERISSIA: "Development the wager".
KATHIMERINI: "Laws that are enacted only on paper".
LOGOS: "240,000 working position are lost every day".
NAFTEMPORIKI: "The austerity in the Eurozone opened the way to recession".
RIZOSPASTIS: "Battle of classes for authority the only way to stop the new poverty attack".
VRADYNI: "The Development battle begins after the elections".
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